Changing the Australian three-part test for proof of Indigeneity

Thursday, 23 March 2017
Emily Poelina-Hunter

In the state of Victoria, section 12.5 of the Equal opportunity Act 2010 mentions that eligibility restrictions may be applied to positions that are identified as being open to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander applicants only. The eligibility restriction is a three-part test formulated in the early 1980s (Gardiner-Garden 2002) to determine the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status of individuals. It requires individuals to have biological descent from an Indigenous Australian, to self-identify and to be accepted by their Indigenous community. All three parts must be satisfied to gain a ‘proof of indigeneity’ letter. Often, institutions committed to increasing the representation of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in their workforces use identified positions to go about achieving Indigenous employment targets. In return, new recruits are offered ‘culturally safe’ work environments. This presentation examines the difficulties of maintaining cultural safety when putting a new recruit’s indigeneity under an administrative microscope. It then suggests an alternative eligibility restriction for Indigenous identified positions that workplaces can use to recognise the indigeneity of their new Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander recruits and decolonise employment strategies and policies.